My Favourite Game

The Ab­so­lute Ra­dio host on home­made joy­sticks, the plea­sure of bro­ken games, and Mon­key Is­land tat­toos

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Pete Don­ald­son talks home­made hard­ware and bro­ken games

Pete Don­ald­son is a voiceover artist, rov­ing re­porter and pre­sen­ter who cur­rently hosts sev­eral shows on Ab­so­lute Ra­dio, and is one quar­ter of The Foot­ball Ram­ble pod­cast team. He’s played a few small roles in games, helped to judge the BAFTA Video Game Awards, and has two Lu­casArts-in­spired tat­toos: one of Ghost Pi­rate LeChuck, and a more re­cent ren­di­tion of Manny Calav­era. Given your tat­toos, is it safe to as­sume you’re a big ad­ven­ture game fan? Yeah, huge. Huge. I was re­ally into all the Sierra se­ries and Lu­casArts ones. Po­lice Quest was a re­ally big favourite of mine on the Sierra side – this re­ally dull pro­ce­dural po­lice ad­ven­ture. There’s no rea­son why an eight-year-old should know the cor­rect flare pro­ce­dure when deal­ing with a bro­ken-down car on the mo­tor­way or how to read peo­ple their Mi­randa rights, but I just liked the au­then­tic­ity of it. Ob­vi­ously, my favourite from that genre was def­i­nitely Mon­key Is­land. I re­mem­ber cov­et­ing that game for such a long time. I’d walk past the videogames in WHSmith and it was £37, so I could never af­ford it. But I saved up my pa­per-round money and fi­nally picked up that one soli­tary box in the shop and took it home, and, man, what a game that was, even on 11 floppy disks, con­stantly swap­ping. That was back when I was on the Amiga. You voiced a char­ac­ter in an un­of­fi­cial fan-made Zak McKracken se­quel, too. Yeah, there was a dev team from Ger­many who put to­gether a reimag­ined fan episode of Zak McKracken And The Alien Mind­ben­ders. It was kind of quirky and, for want of a bet­ter word, east­ern Euro­pean in its ex­e­cu­tion. The jokes didn’t re­ally con­nect, but it was a long time ago. It’s pretty goofy and my delivery is aw­ful. I’d hate for any­one to have ever heard it! I hadn’t started do­ing voiceovers at that point, but I just wanted to be in a videogame. I’ve au­di­tioned for a cou­ple, the can­celled Fable game be­ing one of the no­table ones, but it doesn’t look like that job ex­ists any more! Were ad­ven­ture games your route into games, or were you play­ing be­fore? It was even ear­lier. My dad was an elec­tri­cal engi­neer and we had an Am­strad CPC6128, and he tore out the screen from an old fruit ma­chine and that was my first colour mon­i­tor! And he pulled out the in­nards of this ma­chine and made me my own be­spoke mi­cro-switched joy­stick, be­cause back then there weren’t re­ally that many joy­stick stan­dards. My ear­li­est mem­o­ries are games like Jet Set Willy and Turbo Esprit, and those crappy col­lec­tions where you’d get 100 games for £9.99 from Wool­worths and they’d be in the bar­gain bin, and they’d be hor­ri­ble. But I have a soft spot for games that over­stretch them­selves a lit­tle, games that are fun­da­men­tally bro­ken.

“My dad pulled out the in­nards of this ma­chine and made me my own be­spoke mi­croswitched joy­stick”

Such as? One of my favourites was a game called Boil­ing Point: Road To Hell. I don’t know if any­one re­mem­bers it, but it was pub­lished by Atari. It was a mas­sive open-world first­per­son shooter, and you could drive any ve­hi­cle; it had de­grad­ing weapons, and it just hadn’t re­ally been done be­fore. But it was un­speak­ably bad. The wrong voices would come out of cer­tain char­ac­ters, the col­li­sion de­tec­tion was dread­ful, and the first patch that came out – that ev­ery­one was hop­ing would be this wide-rang­ing, plate-spin­ning patch job for the mul­ti­ple prob­lems that that game had – just made the Moon smaller and had no bear­ing on the game at all. Ah, man, I just love games like that. The Lost tie-in, too – it was dread­ful. I like games that are just bad and make a right dog’s din­ner of it! Do you have a favourite game that isn’t fun­da­men­tally bro­ken? I’m prob­a­bly gonna have to go for Shen­mue on the Dream­cast. Your favourite games are def­i­nitely cho­sen around a point in your life when you’ve got a lit­tle bit more time to play them, and you could sink 150 hours into that game. You could col­lect toys and stuff and wan­der around this beau­ti­fully re­alised – for the Dream­cast – ren­di­tion of Ja­pan. It gave me an in­tense in­ter­est to visit, and I did it fi­nally four years ago when I had enough money to go. I’ve been go­ing on av­er­age twice a year since. I love that place, and I think I can def­i­nitely blame Shen­mue for that. Again, it’s a janky game and not re­ally that much fun to play when you think about it, but games have to be like that to get my at­ten­tion.

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